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Thompson on Hollywood

Cinematographer Manuel Claro Talks the Bearable Lightness of 'Nymphomaniac'

Cinematographer Manuel Claro calls "Nymphomaniac" the ultimate Lars von Trier movie ("Volume II" opens Friday), containing "a fuck you to film school energy that's all over the place," in which the director's pessimism and optimism battle one another. However, after the in-your-face look of"Melancholia," the opus about sex addiction starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgard was much simpler to light, despite the greater length and traipsing 55 days through Germany and Belgium.
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • April 3, 2014 3:28 PM
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Cinematographer Matthew Libatique Talks Ark and Arcs in 'Noah'

Darren Aronofsky has always been drawn to the mystical, and "Noah" is even ballsier than "Pi" or "The Fountain." Of course, it's divisive as environmental allegory and the conflict between religion and science. But I think it's a powerful evocation of creation and destruction, love and beauty, and the difficulty of raising a family. Talk about survival and rebirth: It's the ultimate road movie, according to cinematographer Matthew Libatique, who's shot every Aronofsky movie but "The Wrestler" because of a temporary rift.
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • March 28, 2014 2:05 PM
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Anatomy of a Scene: Revisiting 'Hang Me' from 'Inside Llewyn Davis'

The opening of "Inside Llewyn Davis" is a remarkable achievement: It not only sets the melancholy mood of Greenwich Village in '61 with the eponymous singer (Oscar Isaac) performing "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me" at the iconic Gaslight, but it also sets us up for a confusing circular odyssey. I got the lowdown on the Coen brothers' bizarre tale about folk music with the Oscar nominated cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel and sound mixer Skip Lievsay (also nominated for "Gravity").
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • February 21, 2014 2:03 PM
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Anatomy of a Scene: Dissecting the Bravura 'Gravity' Opening

The extraordinary 13-minute opening of Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" is like a mini-movie, setting up the zero-gravity world in space, the two astronauts played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, the mood, the tension, the crisis, and the metaphor. I break it down with Oscar-nominated cinematographer Emmanuel (Chivo) Lubezki, production designer Andy Nicholson, VFX supervisor Tim Webber, sound mixer Chris Munro, and editor Mark Sanger.
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • February 14, 2014 2:45 PM
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  • 1 Comment

Does the Academy Need a Visual Imaging Category?

With VFX taking a much more prominent role in the virtual lighting of hybrid movies, the question of who's responsible for cinematography in evaluating Oscar contenders has prompted the Academy to consider a new visual imaging category. Obviously the discussion has intensified with "Gravity's" Emmanuel ("Chivo") Lubezki being the frontrunner this year. He would be the second cinematographer in a row to win the Oscar for virtual cinematography and the third in Academy history.
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • January 23, 2014 2:05 PM
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Oscar-Nominated Papamichael Talks Making 'Nebraska' in Black-and-White (VIDEO)

There was never any doubt about making Alexander Payne's "Nebraska" in black-and-white. It always lived in his imagination as the best way to convey the film's sense of isolation and loneliness. For Oscar nominee, Phedon Papamichael, it was like returning to his old still photography days when he would carry around both color and black-and-white Nikons.
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • January 17, 2014 2:02 PM
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Cinematographer Le Sourd Talks Anatomy of 'The Grandmaster' Train Fight

Oscar contender Philippe Le Sourd, who scored an ASC nomination last week for lensing "The Grandmaster," discusses the standout train platform fight between Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi) and her father's killer and protege (Zhang Jin), which you can watch below. Not only was Wong Kar-wai's improvisational style a challenge, but they also completed the scene two years later, compelling Le Sourd to keep a journal so he could remember the location of his lights and maintain visual consistency).
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • January 14, 2014 4:09 PM
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